What is placenta previa and how is it treated?

Dr Christine Catling

Dr Christine Catling

Dr Christine Catling, a midwife for over 25 years, is the Director of Midwifery Studies at UTS. She believes research, innovation and good quality midwifery are pivotal to the well-being of mothers and young families. Christine has extensive experience in antenatal education, policy development and research, and has published on workforce issues, homebirth, vaginal birth...
Updated on Jul 09, 2024 · 3 mins read
What is placenta previa and how is it treated?

Your placenta is an integral organ during your pregnancy. Not only does it provide your little one with food and oxygen to keep them alive, it also takes waste products out of their blood. In a normal pregnancy, it will attach to the wall of your uterus. However, in the case of placenta praevia, your placenta may be sitting near or covering your cervix. This placement can cause some complications, including not being able to give birth vaginally. No need to panic just yet, often your placenta will move throughout your pregnancy. However, if it doesn’t, here are some things you need to know.

What exactly is Placenta Praevia?

During labour your cervix opens to let your baby move out of the uterus and into the vagina to give birth. When your placenta is covering your cervix this process can’t happen. This can be  due to a range of risk factors:

  • Prior placenta praevia
  • Large placenta
  • Mother over 35 years old
  • Second pregnancy
  • Abnormal uterus
  • Prior miscarriage
  • Scarring of the uterine lining
  • Multiple babies (twins or triplets)

Even though these are some things to be aware of, placenta praevia is completely unpreventable.

How will I know if I have Placenta Previa?

The first sign you might have placenta praevia will arise during your 20-week ultrasound. There, they will be able to see if this might be an issue, but in some cases the placenta will move on its own. If they notice it is in the wrong position, they will usually require another scan around 32 weeks to check back.

If you haven’t had this become clear from a scan, the other symptom is typically painless and bright red bleeding from your vagina. It could be spontaneous or come after sex. This will happen after the 28-30 week mark. You may also notice some cramping. As soon as you see any sign of blood, make sure to go to see your doctor or the Emergency Department. They will be able to tell you the seriousness and what the next steps are.

Treatment of Placenta Previa

Treatment will come based on how much bleeding there is, the stage of your pregnancy, your baby’s health, and the placenta’s position.

If there continues to be heavy bleeding, it is likely they will require you to stay in the hospital. As soon as they determine it is safe for your baby to be born, they will schedule a Caesarian Section.

Knowing all of this, prepare yourself for the likelihood that you will need a Caesarian Section.  However, in the time being, find ways to enjoy the extra rest. Buy yourself some new pyjamas, read all the books you can and catch up on the shows you won’t be able to watch soon. Soon enough your little one will be in your world and you won’t have any time for it!

This topic may sound scary, but it is very common and doctors are very well prepared to handle it. Be aware of your body and if anything worries you, always contact your doctor or midwife.

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